WASHINGTON (CN) - In a federal class action, psychologists claim the American Psychological Association extracted millions of dollars a year from its members for decades, under the bogus claim "that a 'mandatory' special assessment over and above the annual dues was required". In fact, the class claims, the APA gave the money to a separate, but affiliated, lobbying group.
Named plaintiff Ellen Levine, of Hayward, Calif., claims the APA has been scooping up $6 million a year from its members, through "misrepresented, 'mandatory' annual memberships in an organization known as American Psychological Association Practice Organization ('APAPO')."
Levine seeks class damages from both groups, alleging fraud and unjust enrichment.
Levine claims the APA assesses its members - psychologists practicing clinical psychology and psychotherapy - "a special fee with their annual APA dues", which is calls "a mandatory practice assessment."
But Levine claims the "special fee" - now about $140 a year - is or should be voluntary, but the APA is forcing it upon its "hundreds of thousands of members."
"In other words, the APA employed a subterfuge to function as a lobbying and lobbying fundraising entity," the complaint states.
"The APAPO practice assessment is not trivial, amounting to over 50 percent of the amount of the APA dues - e.g., in 2009 this assessment was $137 per person, while the annual APA dues themselves were $238."
The class claims the APA website informs members that they have had to pay the special assessment since 2002, even after the APA "acknowledged the deceptive language of the past dues statements."
"Until dissemination by defendants of the revised dues statement form in May 2010, it was unknown by plaintiff and members of the class, and not reasonably capable of being known, that the purportedly mandatory APAPO assessment was a means by which APA/APAPO leadership secretly, fraudulently and with intent to deceive, had set up the dues arrangement described hereinabove so as to illegally collect lobbying funds from a membership which the leadership knew otherwise would be unwilling to donate or provide through dues or otherwise the annual APAPO assessments," according to the complaint.
The class includes "all APA members in the United States who paid as part of their annual dues a charge for membership" in APAPA. Levine seeks statutory damages, exemplary damages, punitive damages and attorney's fees.
Its lead counsel is H.A. Zavareei with Tycko & Zavareei.
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